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What is Content Marketing?

What is Content Marketing?

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is digitally posting information that your customers and potential customers will find interesting and useful.  Content marketing is an extremely cost-effective way of increasing your website relevance and subscribers.  Content marketing can be done for free, counting on organic search results, or it can be paid for, immediately boosting the visibility of your posts by paying to have the content placed in front of people who are searching for similar products and services you offer.  Unlike paid advertising on auction-based services such as Bing, Google and Facebook, organic content marketing costs you nothing and it’s valuable over a lengthy period of time.  Counting on organic search results alone is cheaper, but it’s a longer process with no guarantee of results.  Paying to boost your content will get your messaging out sooner and to a larger audience of your choosing.  Once you’ve paid for a period of time to have people directed to your content, you can stop paying to direct them, but your content will still remain.

Content marketing is a double-edged sword.  If you do content marketing well, you’ll gain subscribers and grow a good reputation.  If you do it poorly, you’ll annoy people and lose subscribers.

There are two ways to connect with your audience

The two ways you connect with your audience are inbound marketing and outbound marketing.  Both are valuable forms of marketing and each of them has a place in your business marketing toolkit.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing occurs with your customer initiating the contact.  You’ve created a point of contact and your customer is looking for you.  In the digital space, inbound connections occur when you post something that someone else eventually searches for, and that’s how they find you and end up on your website.  The idea of inbound marketing is similar to business signs in shopping malls.  As people walk around shopping, they see signs and go into the businesses that are relevant to their shopping.  They’re mindset is that they’re out shopping expecting to buy something.  They’re looking for you.  Digital inbound marketing is the same idea, but from a digital perspective.  Your “customers” will come across your business by finding you online.  They’re using search engines, and targeting your products and services.  They’ll find you in organic results (free to you) or in paid results (such as Adwords or Facebook Ads).  You’ve opened the door and laid the groundwork for them to find you.  All they have to do is search for information on the products and services you offer.

Inbound marketing is a long-game with recurring long-term advantages.  The advantage of inbound marketing over outbound marketing is that it’s cost effective and can easily be recycled.  The disadvantage of inbound marketing is that it’s a crowded space and the competition is heavy.  It must be executed properly to get results.

Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing gets people who aren’t necessarily searching for you, to become aware of you and your products and services.  You’re initiating the contact.  Connecting with your audience in an “Outbound” manner means you’re posting or advertising something that reaches that audience without them searching for you or your services.  Your message is delivered to them via email, paid marketing outlets such as with Facebook Ads, or the sharing of one of your articles via friends and acquaintances.  Similar methods of outbound marketing in the non-digital space include radio advertising, newspaper flyers and direct-mail advertising.  In those cases, the “customer” is in the car, receiving the paper (not knowing what’s going to there in the flyers), or opening direct mail (not knowing what’s going to be in the envelope).

Quality content marketing starts with keyword research

Content marketing writeups are best when they provide useful information that many people are looking for answers to.  Quality content solves a problem, answers a question, gives valuable advice or provides a novel perspective.  What counts as quality depends on your audience.  If your audience consists of teenage girls who love Justin Bieber, quality information might be revealing what Justin Bieber does in his spare time, who he’s dating or the name of his new release.  If your audience is middle aged homeowners, quality information might be how to prevent flooding in the spring, where to find a good mortgage broker or how to prevent door-to-door salespeople.

Quality information helps people solve problems, reveal an advantage or otherwise pique interest on a topic relevant to them.

Mix Content Marketing With Quality, for Best Results

Put your efforts in posting quality content, not quantity content.  Quality content takes longer to identify, research and compose, but it’s much more useful to your audience than “Content Bombing” them with irrelevant information.  Irrelevant information costs your subscriber time to consume without receiving any benefit out of it.  If you cost your audience time to consume irrelevant or useless information, eventually they’ll see you as a source of spam and stop paying attention to you.  So how do you determine what’s “Quality Content” for you to write about?  Simple!  Find out what your followers want you to write about.  (That’s not a typo).

Where to Get Ideas for Quality Content Marketing

1.       Ask your prospects or clients when you meet with them, before getting down to business, if they have any questions about anything.  Make a list of these questions and over time, you’ll have a list of things people want to know about.

2.       Join social media groups relevant to the products and services you offer and go through the posts.  See the questions people are asking about and post something to your website blog.

3.       Pay attention to current events and write about trending topics.  For example, when Bitcoin started showing up in headlines (and it still is in many respects), people who researched and wrote about it ended up getting a lot of content marketing exposure.

4.       Take part in clubs, associations or events related to your business.  Interesting topics to write about often surface during conversations at these events.

Use Digital Media to Augment Interest

Once you identify, research and compose something to write about, be sure to use engaging digital content to augment interest in the topic.  Use movie clips, imagery, music and other media appropriately which was created specifically for that topic you chose to write about.

Remember your Audience and WIIFM

Last But Most Certainly Not Least – Remember Your Audience!  The best rule of thumb when you write anything is to use the WIIFM principal.  Put yourself in your audiences mind and ask yourself “What’s In It For Me?” – WIIFM!

If you write content that clearly answers the question of WIIFM, then you’re almost guaranteed to be writing relevant content that won’t come across as spammy or irrelevant.

What is Responsive Website Design?

What is Responsive Website Design?

What is Responsive Website Design?

Responsive Website Design refers to how your website displays on different devices.

Desktop computer displays are generally larger than tablet displays.  Tablet displays are generally larger than mobile handheld device displays.  In order for your website content to be easily viewable on all of these devices, your website must be built with responsive design.

How does responsive design display differently than non-responsive design?

Below are three images of a familiar website page shown on three separate devices.

Three different displays indicating the difference between a responsive website display and a non responsive website display when compared to the originally intended desktop display
Three different displays indicating the difference between a responsive website display and a non responsive website display when compared to the originally intended desktop display

Figure 1 shows the original page as it was intended to be displayed on a desktop monitor.

Figure 2 shows the same page in a responsive format.  With less screen real-estate, the page displays differently, but the text is still easily readable.  The menu has collapsed itself and turned into a button that’s easily pressed to navigate throughout the site.

Figure 3 shows the same page on a mobile handheld device, but not in a responsive context.  The text and navigation are almost impossible to read without zooming in and out and around the page.  The menu buttons are almost impossible to press without pressing the ones next to them, or having to zoom in and out to press the right menu button.

Importance of Responsive Website Design

Every year more people are accessing the Internet using their handheld devices.  Each year, statistcs show that everything from browsing to purchasing is increasing on handheld devices.  As a matter of fact, handheld devices have overtaken desktop and laptop computers in terms of pages browsed.  Google and other search engines are rating sites with responsive design higher than those without.  That means if your site is built with responsiveness in mind, you’ll rank higher in search engine results than which aren’t responsive.

Bottom Line on Responsive Website Design

If you have a website and it’s not responsive, you’re increasingly missing out on search engine result pages.  Missing out means less customers finding you.  If your website is not responsive, perhaps it’s time to give us a call to fix the problem?

How To Deal With Negative Social Media Reviews

How To Deal With Negative Social Media Reviews

How to Handle Negative Social Media Reviews

Customer Feedback is great for your business.  If we truly care about the customers we serve, then customer feedback allows us to see ourselves purely from the clients point of view.  We feel good when we see positive social media reviews online on how we’ve made our clients feel about using our products and services.  Positive online feedback is a very public “pat-on-the-back” that many other potential clients will see.  But what do you do when you receive negative social media reviews from a client? Or even worse, an un-named “Troll” who’s likely a competitor and has never really done business with you? How do you handle it?  What steps can you take to rectify the situation and get the negative review removed?  In this article, we’re going to address those questions.

Threats Won’t Help

Social media has become so big and commonplace, threatening the web service owner to remove a bad review “Or you’ll file a legal action” really won’t get you far.  If someone used your product or service and had a negative experience, as long as they’re honest, there’s not much you can do by way of going after the social media service where the comment was posted.  As a matter of fact, some web services “roll their eyes” when they receive threats.

WordPress.org

WordPress.org has the following comment placed very openly on the top sidebar of their site:

“Please don’t send us legal takedown orders or threats, we don’t actually host every WordPress blog in the world. If you don’t understand that, you probably shouldn’t be sending legal notices anyway.”

Yelp

Yelp.ca / Yelp.com is even less responsive to complaints than WordPress.  Yelp brands itself as a champion of free speech.  Yelp does have content guidelines however.  If there is a post that violates content guidelines, yelp encourages notifying its moderators, but no promises made are promises kept.  Yelp’s Terms of Use policy pretty much state they’ll do nothing if they don’t want to and something if they choose to.

So, what do you do when you receive negative feedback from a client?

As a decision maker in your business, you may have limited contact with your client whereas your staff have the most contact with your client.  Or, you may deal with your clients directly and suddenly you’re faced with a negative review from one of them.  Negative reviews can hurt in two places.  They can hurt our egos, and they can hurt our businesses.

The first thing you should do after discovering a negative review is – cool the emotions.  Avoid the knee-jerk response of feeling that you need to post and respond immediately.  The best action is to plan the response.  The best tone is to own it!  Whether the comments are deserved or not, own it and respond the way you would as if there were 10000 clients watching you.  In a way, a lot of people are going to see the dialogue.  In the long run, it’s not the negative comment that will hurt you as much as a poor response.

Steps to Handle Negative Online Business Reviews

Step 1 – Evaluate the Complaint

Magnifying glass with black handle

Is the complaint legitimate or nonsense?  What is the person complaining about?  Have they predetermined a remedy?  If you believe the complaint is legitimate, proceed to the next step.  If not, go to step 5.

Step 2 – Get answers from those who were there.

Is this a situation you have first-hand knowledge of?  If not, get an explanation and the facts from the employee or partner that dealt with this client.  It’s important to know the facts up front to help you plan how to respond.  You should at least begin to have an idea at this point on the following:

1.       Again ask, is this a legitimate complaint?  Is the person using the complaint angle to obtain free services or product from you?  If so proceed to step 5.

2.       Is your business at fault?  And, if so, is there room to compromise or fix the situation?

3.       Is the client expecting too much?  Was there a breakdown in communication between what was promised, what was expected and what was delivered?

Step 3 – Identify the Poster

Image of an unknown person holding up a white card which hides their face. The image deliberately indicates an unknown person.

1.       Is the poster using a real name or just a handle?  Is the name of the poster someone you’ve done business with?  If so, perfect!  It will be easy to reach out to them.

2.       If the poster is using a handle, research that handle or nickname or whatever identifier they’re using to post, and examine the online behaviour of that person.  Are they a frequent complainer?  Could they be a spam-bot leaving crappy comments to the amusement of a programmer?  (Many things are possible and having this knowledge will help you craft a response).

Step 4 – Consider the intentions of the Poster

Most people who feel underwhelmed about a service or product they purchased are commenting to avenge the feeling of having no control over the situation they’re in.  They’re upset and they want to hurt you because they feel hurt. If that’s the case, hearing them out may be a terrific way to start the dialogue and fix the problem.  It’ll be easy to start the dialogue with them if they’ve experienced negative service and you genuinely want to fix the problem.  Try to understand their feelings as oppose to just understanding the chronological unfolding of events.  Consider what consequences they may have experienced, and consider finding out what can help them feel better.

Step 5 – Take the discussion offline

Once you have determined if the complaint is legitimate or not, regardless of which, respond to the negative complaint using these steps:

1.       Identify yourself as a representative of the company

2.       Thank the person for using your products or services

3.       Repeat back your understanding of what they are complaining about

4.       Apologize for the fact they’ve had a negative experience.

5.       Offer to discuss the issue and advise of your willingness to address the problem.  Provide your phone number and business hours.  (This information will be on your website anyway, but it’s helpful to provide it in your response).

6.       Thank the person again and advise them that you genuinely look forward to hearing from them.

7.       Don’t be baited into keeping the discussion online.  Advise that you’re willing to discuss the issue over the phone because it’s much more personable.

Real-Life Examples

Here are some real examples of how big corporations do it – notice they don’t try to delete the posts, they respond to them.  The bigger corporations don’t put in the effort I’ve mentioned above, but the optics of personal responses far exceed canned and repetitive responses.

Canadian Tire:

A Facebook snapshot of the Canadian Tire Account
Canadian Tire on Facebook with a negative review - part I
Canadian Tire on Facebook with a negative review - part II

Fed Ex

A Facebook snapshot of the Fed Ex Account
Fed Ex on Facebook with a negative review - part I

Whirlpool Canada

A Facebook snapshot of the Whirlpool Account
Whirlpool on Facebook with a negative review - part I

Step 6 – Followup

If appropriate, consider setting a reminder of 30 days in your personal business calendar to respond to the complaint again should the poster not contact you.  Be sure to monitor the post from time to time to see if there have been any changes.

Step 7 – Address the complaint in person accordingly.

1.       If the poster contacts you

a.       Hear them out.  Let them vent.  Acknowledge how they feel and sympathize with them.  Give them a reasonable amount of time to be heard, even allow them to repeat themselves if necessary.  If you genuinely care, you’ll respect their feelings and allow them to validate those feelings by paying attention.

b.       Explain to the client that you care how they feel.  There is a very appropriate maxim for this situation.  “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  At this point in writing this piece, I genuinely believe that you care about your client and business, otherwise you wouldn’t have read up to this point.  😊

c.       As long as it’s true, explain this is not a normal reaction for customers to have and explain you want to fix it.  If this is a normal reaction that customers have, then you have some soul-searching and looking into the mirror to do to fix the problem with your business that caused this.

d.       Ask how you could fix the situation.

e.       Decide if it’s reasonable.  Explain that your reputation is important and you want to fix your reputation with the client.

f.        Don’t be afraid to mention the negative post.  Explain that it hurts and that you respect that the client may have been hurt.  Ask if they are willing to work with you to put a mutual end to the hurt.

g.       Take the appropriate action and if they’re willing, ask them if they’d feel comfortable adjusting their post based on the correction of events.  In most cases, the poster will have experienced a sense of validation and if the problem was fixed, most people will leave happy and even change their post.  Encourage them to write about their experiences.  Fixing a problem and getting a good review for customer care is a lot more reassuring to potential new customers than a “30-day money back guarantee” before they buy.  You may have also gained a friend and supporter by fixing the problem with a little TLC.

2.       If the poster doesn’t contact you in 30 days, respond to your response.  Acknowledge your attempt to take the post seriously and acknowledge your attempt to fix the problem.  Advise that the door is open should they change their mind.  Wish them well and thank them again.

Step 8 – Violations of Content Guidelines or Terms of Service

Sometimes, depending on the forum of where the complaint was left, there may be rules against foul language, ALL CAPS TO DENOTE SHOUTING, off-colour or offensive expressions.

According to YELP in the Content Guidelines section, under Conflicts of Interest, contributors shouldn’t write about their own business or employer.

If you notice that a poster has violated Content Guidelines or Terms of Service, report the post to the forum moderator and cite the specific violation in the terms of service.  This is the one rare case where you could spur a service to remove a negative post.

Step 9 – Learning moment

Reflect on the entire incident from start to finish.  Determine where the process could be improved to avoid a potential repeat of this event.  Fix the problem and move on.

Business Credibility

Image of a handshake between two business people indicating trust when it comes to business

If all else fails, don’t sweat it.  Everyone knows we’ll never please everybody.  A negative review that a previous customer wont fix won’t hurt your business as long as you have taken the steps above to show you’ve tried.  People will read the review and your answer to the review.  As long as you’ve maintained composure and offered to help, you’ll look good in the eyes of potential customers.

Reputation Management Services

If you have numerous negative reviews and comments, you may consider firms who offer Reputation Management Services.  Reputation Management Services employ a variety of strategies to ensure that your business is expressed online in a positive manner.  The strategy is to push your positive ratings up and bury the negative ratings deeper in search engine results, or dilute them altogether.  Reputation management employs many of the tactics and best practices used in Search Engine Optimization.

Final thoughts

There is a saying that for every instance of negative feedback, there are ten people who feel the same way.  But for every instance of positive feedback, there are a thousand who feel the same way.  It’s always easier to get negative feedback than positive feedback.  Concentrate on doing your business well and treating your customers accordingly, and the positive feedback will flow.

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